Four people confirmed dead in Christmas Eve bus crash on Highway 97C

Four people died as a result of a bus rollover on the Okanagan Connector near Merritt Saturday evening.

B.C. RCMP confirmed the fatalities Sunday afternoon, adding multiple people sustained injuries.

“While the investigation is ongoing it is believed that extremely icy road conditions caused the rollover,” the RCMP said in a statement. In an update late Sunday afternoon, police add the bus “had gone off-road to the left and rolled onto its passenger side coming to rest in the eastbound lanes. Preliminary information indicates the bus was travelling westbound prior to the collision.”

Police say the exact number of passengers is yet to be confirmed and say “approximately” 53 people were taken to hospital, however, Interior Health says 52 people were taken to hospital.

Related Article: B.C. highway bus crash second in four days; survivors call out company

“We are currently in the process of locating and speaking with them. Due to the exigent circumstances and injuries many were transported to local hospitals prior to Police having the chance to identify them at the scene,” B.C. RCMP said. “We are attempting to complete next of kin notifications and will not be providing any further details about the deceased at this time.”

According to Interior Health, eight patients remain in hospitals between Kelowna, Penticton, and Kamloops, two of whom are in serious condition.

“Although the number of patients remaining in hospital is low, this is a life-altering incident for all involved, from the initial physical injuries to the emotional and spiritual impacts of an incident such as this,” the health agency said in a statement.

“Our deep gratitude to the many Interior Health staff and physicians already working or who came into the hospitals to help care for the high number of patients who needed immediate care.”

On Saturday, Interior Health issued a code orange, meaning a disaster or mass casualty event as a result of the bus crash.

The bus, operated by the company Ebus, was travelling from Kelowna to Vancouver when the crash happened. President of the company, John Stepovy, told CityNews

“First and foremost, our thoughts and our prayers are with everyone impacted,” Ebus president John Stepovy told CityNews Sunday.

“We’re certainly thankful for the first responders and healthcare workers that have supported and are continuing to support the unfortunate incident.”

Stepovy says the company will continue to cooperate with the RCMP in its investigation.

A central phone line (250-545-2211) has been set up for friends and families seeking information as to the location of passengers. Mounties are asking for anyone who may have seen the collision or have dash-cam video of the Bus travelling prior to the collision, to contact your local RCMP detachment.

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